A schoolboy in California is making headlines after he used his allowance money to pay off school lunch debts for his entire third-grade class.
When nine-year-old Ryan Kirkpatrick found out a number of his fellow students can’t afford school lunches, and have to take on debt, he wanted to do something about it.
Ryan, a student at West Park Elementary School in Napa, California, asked his mum, Kylie, to find out how much his friends at school owed. Kylie received an email from the school saying the total was around $74.50.
According to ABC7 News, the price of lunches at the school vary from 30 cents to $3.25 each, depending on income levels.
If the students cannot afford to pay, district policy dictates they will still receive a hot meal, even if they have a ‘negative lunch account’.
‘What do you want to do?’ Kylie asked her son. He replied: ‘I guess I can pay for it.’
After making sure he was certain he wanted to spend his allowance – which he would normally spend on sporting equipment, like signed baseballs – Ryan and his mum took a cheque down to the school to pay off the debts.
“School lunch debt” should not exist in the wealthiest country in the history of the world.
When we are in the White House, we are going to provide year-round, free universal school meals. https://t.co/09z1PdR4WG
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 10, 2019
Kylie told Fox13:
My son saw that story on the news and came to me while I was getting ready for work and he was in tears and didn’t understand why that happened.
Though they at first donated the amount anonymously, Ryan’s story has since made the news, not just because of his generosity but the issues it has highlighted surrounding school meals.
This boggles my mind… "school lunch debt"? Wtf!?
— Peartrees & Flowers (@FloresPereiras) June 11, 2019
Ryan told ABC7 News:
I want them to realize people actually think about them because you’re not just bragging about stuff. I want them to feel happy someone cares about them.
I don’t think anything infuriates me more than the idea of “school lunch debt”
— Dad (@fivefifths) June 10, 2019
Kylie and Ryan also found out pupils in the school as a whole, not just Ryan’s fellow third-graders, owed almost $800 in school lunch debts.
After taking the cheque to the school, Ryan reportedly said: ‘Please tell my classmates’ families that they don’t owe any more money.’
"School lunch debt" is not a concept that should exist in the wealthiest country on Earth. We must provide free, universal school meals to all children in America. https://t.co/Xqt0qtAy78
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 3, 2019
Mum Kylie added:
You don’t know where your lunch is coming from, you can’t afford to pay for lunch that day, all of your other friends have these amazing meals, regardless of the situation, that is not something that a little kid should be worrying about.
What we talked about during this process was about how one person, regardless of age, can start a movement, and that at least in our family we believe community happens over a meal.
Ryan and his mum are now campaigning to make school meals free for all students.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.